by Melissa Brotton | 17 October 2022 |
“Hi, Siobhan,” Tim greets his colleague of five years, then stops abruptly. “Everything okay?”
Siobhan looks up from her laptop briefly. “Yeah. Well, not really. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.”
“Anything I can do?” Tim leans into Siobhan’s cubicle.
“Not sure. It’s not that I feel incompetent, but a lot of these assignments have been piling up.” Siobhan points to a pile of sheets to one side of her desk. I don’t feel I have enough time to complete one before the next one comes in.”
Tim nods. “I know what you mean. It seems we are getting double the amount we used to get each week.”
“And the emails are non-stop,” Siobhan gestures in despair at her laptop. I just can’t keep up with them. Yesterday, I didn’t take my lunchbreak, but even that didn’t help. I’m still
Tim thinks for a few seconds. “Look, maybe I can take some of those off your plate.”
Siobhan raises a hand. “No, Tim. You have plenty, but if you don’t mind giving me some tips for how to work through these a little faster, I’d be grateful.”
Tim pauses again. “I’ll need to do a little research over the weekend. In the meantime, keep your chin up, okay?”
Siobhan smiles and nods. “Thanks, Tim. I feel hopeful already. I haven’t had enough time with my family in weeks.”
Tim waves at her as he steps back into the hallway. “I’ll do my best.”
“Now, where was I?” Siobhan moans to herself as she looks back at the stack. “I could really use a break!”
Time for a Break
If you can relate to this conversation, then you probably need a break too. Burnout can happen at work or at home and anywhere in-between. Mayo Clinic explains that while burnout is not a medical diagnosis, it is a reality that can lead to physical and mental symptoms.(1) Burnout symptoms include fatigue, sadness, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, stomach problems, headaches, high blood pressure, and even addiction problems and heart disease.
Causes of burnout stem from a perceived lack of control over parts of your life, prolonged grief, unclear expectations in relationships or jobs, chaotic environments, or feelings of being alone with too many responsibilities.(2) Even one or two of these causes, when prolonged, can lead to anxiety, mental sluggishness, even paralysis. Feelings of being trapped or of suffocated are common. There is a frantic need for freedom and fresh air.
When you find yourself facing burnout, there is something you can do. Here are some steps to find relief.
First, assess yourself using some simple questions. Do you find yourself becoming irritable from little things? Are you snapping back at people, even your grandkids or your dog? Do you feel like honking your horn at other drivers after just a few seconds at a stop-sign? Do you lash out at friends or co-workers with little or no provocation? Do you find yourself crying, moaning, or grunting during the day due to little frustrations? If you are doing these kinds of things, you may be experiencing burnout, but there is hope.
Second, get to the bottom of what is causing your burnout? Too many responsibilities? A feeling of threat hanging over you? Trying to live up to unrealistic expectations? Dealing with oppressive or dysfunctional people in your life? Dealing with your own unhealthy ways of handling problems? Locating what is out of control is an important step forward.
Third, pray for the peace that passes understanding. One therapist says it this way: when you feel you are in a corner, remember there is love. Reach out to God, who says, “I will be with you in trouble. I will deliver you and honor you” (Psalm 91:14b). Say it to yourself, and ask God for help.
Fourth, make a commitment to prioritize your health. Remember that you are in charge of your health. Change can only come once you make that commitment. God will honor your determination.
Fifth, know your escape routes. Set aside a block of time, even if just thirty minutes, to think through what you can say no to or back out of now to buy some breathing space. Are you working on your third volunteer project this month? Can you postpone that lunch date? Scale it down to the bare minimum. True friends will understand your need to back out or to say no. This is not time to please people. Right now, you need time to pray and think about the big picture. Believe that God will strengthen you for whatever is left on your to-do list.
Sixth, take that time you set aside to pray and commit to God your next steps. Write down what comes to mind. Take a survey of the things that bind you. Have the important things been getting crowded out? Do you need to talk to your someone about taking a break or having your load lightened? Is it time to do something completely different? Or do you need to cope with a situation differently? Can you get to bed earlier? Find a way to get more fresh air and exercise? Do you need help from a friend or a trained professional? Once you’ve committed your plans to God, watch for His answers. Wait for His open doors (Proverbs 16:3). Do everything in your power toward your goal, and watch God do what He does best – the impossible.
Refreshment in Jesus
Jesus offers refreshment to the weary. “He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water” (Psalm 107:35). There are times when we, with good intentions, take on more than we can handle. An honest assessment of our limitations can help us understand what to do next. Our gracious God stands ready to help us. “In every difficulty He has His way prepared to bring relief.”(3) You can rest with assurance in that promise.
(1) Mayo Clinic Staff. “Job Burnout: How to Spot it and Take Action.” Mayo Clinic (June 5, 2021). https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642
(2) See a full list of symptoms, causes, and tips to handle burnout at the Mayo Clinic page above.
(3) Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, Nampa: Pacific Press, 2005, 330.
Melissa Brotton teaches writing and literature courses at La Sierra University. Her special areas are nineteenth-century British literature and religious studies. She has published on the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Biblical ecology. She spends a lot of time outdoors, paints, and writes nature stories and poems.